3 Key Ideas to Publication

3 key ideas to publication from Writer's Digest University.
Publish date:

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

—Colette (1873–1954)

It’s not polite to start a conversation with a negative remark, but in the case of this handbook and guide, it’s important to get it out of the way.

You will be rejected.

The good news is that every published author has been rejected many times over. What makes a successful writer? The steps he then takes after rejection.

It’s important to start talking about rejection right away because most of us have dreams of being published or otherwise discovered, as if these things happen once we produce good enough work.

The truth is, however, that writers with strong marketing skills and ordinary work are more likely to get published than writers with ordinary marketing skills and excellent work.

This guide attempts to give you the 3 keys to publication:

• A clear idea of what makes any work suitable for sale
• How to professionally package and present your work for sale
• The most appropriate markets open to a sale

If you’re completely new to writing and publishing, then take a look at Part I for a general overview of writing techniques and genres. If you already have work that’s ready to market, then Part II will help you prepare it properly. Parts III and IV go into more advanced information about the business end of publishing, especially once you start making sales. The good news is that many things in the publishing world are a matter of common sense, and politeness and professionalism go a long way toward covering up any amateur mistakes you might make.

This guide does not recommend specific agents, editors, or publishing companies, though we do list hundreds of opportunities for you to pursue in Part V. These listings are fully vetted by the staff of Writer’s Digest and are legitimate, traditional publishing companies that pay writers for their work, or do not ask for payment to publish.

The main benefits of this book and accompanying DVD are:

• Learning the basics of how to get published in any genre
• Understanding what it means to be a professional writer and conduct business in an ethical way
• Developing the right expectations of editors, agents, and other publishing professionals whom you’ll deal with
• Avoiding the typical (and sometimes disastrous) beginner mistakes that can sabotage your efforts to get published
• Access to the most up-to-date market information, including agents, book publishers, and magazines

Make sure you take advantage of the full value of this package by viewing the online seminars and registering for your free subscription at WritersMarket.com, which gives you access to more than 8,000 markets—updated daily—as well as a regular featured markets report.

The Critical Next Steps
Let’s go back to the earlier point: It’s not that you get rejected that counts. It’s what you do afterward. So … what do you do?

1. Keep trying. Of course you should keep trying. Persistence is essential. But most importantly, you should keep writing. Once you finish a manuscript, the first thing you should do is start work on another project. Why? Because it helps create distance and perspective from the project you just finished—which will inevitably need to be refined and approached with a more critical eye once you begin to market it.

Don’t neglect this step! You need to be able to evaluate your work from a sales perspective, and with as little emotional attachment as possible. This often only comes with time, or with the assistance of a good editor or critique partner.

2. Develop relationships and connections with people who can help you. More progress than you might think will depend on the willingness of others to help you and advise you. One of the most effective ways to develop relationships is to attend conferences and meet other writers, as well as editors and agents.

One of the most difficult aspects of getting published is trying to query cold. But once you’ve established a relationship with an editor or agent, then it’s no longer a cold contact, but a person who may be compelled to pay attention because you made a good impression on them. Or, if you develop good connections with published authors, they can offer hard-won advice, even referrals to agents, if they believe in your work.

3. Don’t get bitter. I meet many writers who ask, often at a moment of frustration and desperation, “Read my writing and tell me if I should keep trying.”

I empathize if you’re looking for some reason to continue in the face of rejection. It’s tough to continue doing something when you receive no recognition or encouragement for it.

What I find is that most reassurances, while offering a boost to a writer’s ego, are ultimately external and fleeting. A writer needs an essential fire inside, or an attitude, that carries them the distance.

Strive for an attitude and approach that’s defined by:

• Seeking feedback from smart people (avoid defensiveness and protectiveness)
• Loving the writing process and the meaningfulness of what you’re doing (it can’t be about just the money)
• Taking advantage of every possible growth opportunity (not resistant to change)
• Being in control of your own destiny (not waiting to be discovered)

You’ll experience frustrations, and sometimes disagree with the feedback or direction you receive along the way. But take note of everything, take away what is useful and suitable for your core mission, and ignore the rest.

My hope is that every writer I meet will not ask, “Read my work and tell me what to do,” but “This is my mission, how can I improve and grow?”

Stay passionate. Stay persistent.

—Jane Friedman

Read more of Jane’s advice for writers at her blog, There Are No Rules (http://www.writersdigest.com/norules)

About the Book
Get everything you need to write and sell your work. Find out more about Writer’s Digest University.


The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!


Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

Author E.J. Levy discusses her journey with drafting and redrafting her historical fiction novel, The Cape Doctor, and why her first draft was her best draft.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 569

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an "In the Name of Blank" poem.

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover Reveal

The July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest features a collection of articles about writing for change plus an interview with Jasmine Guillory about her newest romance, While We Were Dating.

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Debut novelist Lacie Waldon discusses how her agent encouraged her to write what she knew, but then her editor made her realize that what she thought was boring might not be the case.

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use pedal and peddle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Debut author Marissa Levien discusses how she always knew what the beginning and the end of her science fiction novel The World Gives Way would be, but that the middle remained elusive.